Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Preparing for Maundy Thursday

Reflections on Holy Week – As we observe Maundy Thursday
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:23-24)

We often talk about abundant life, and living victoriously as Christians. Some English Bible translations translates the beatitudes beginning with "Happy are those...." We talk about the future of our children in terms of: "I just want them to be happy." We live in a society that feeds on the insatiable need for achieving happiness and prosperity. Some Christians link prosperity with Christianity too! I was thinking about the rising cost of health care, the increasing paranoia over security, the popularity of health clubs and the constant search for pain relievers. I wonder what do they all have in common? Healthcare is there to prevent illness from getting worse. Security is to prevent one from danger. Going to Exercise/Health clubs help prevent one from getting sick easily. Pain relievers provide a temporal respite from hurting. Healthcare, security, sports clubs and pain medicines camouflage an inner fear and anxiety of one common theme: Death and Dying.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about his hour having come. The Son of Man will be glorified, but first he has to die. Strangely, the subsequent verses talk about death and dying. What is happening here? How do we reconcile ‘glorifying’ and ‘dying’? How can a dead body be glorified? It simply does not make much sense. Moreover, in John 12, Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. Nothing seems to be able to stop Jesus then, not even death. Why not now? Jesus is definitely on a roll. John recorded seven miraculous signs. Witnesses saw even more. Yet the Son of Man must die. It is not easy on Jesus, for in verse 27, his heart remains troubled, yet he is clear of God’s will for him. He has to die.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes our worsening modern conditions for dying. From her experience with many dying people, dying in modern times has become “more lonely, mechanical and dehumanized.” According to the latest CIA World Fact book, Mortality rates in first world countries rank among the lowest, yet the fear of dying ranks among the highest, assuming we measure that against healthcare spending world-wide. One report even mentions that the highest 5% of the first world spends about 4000% MORE than the poorest countries. Isn’t that ironic? Kübler-Ross’s observations strike a chord in me. Many people face loneliness in this life all the way to their dying stages. It is heartbreaking to see a chronically ill person die alone, without loved ones by his/her side. When a person is diagnosed with a serious illness and gets rushed into the emergency room, he/she migrates from a familiar environment into a cold intensive care room, accompanied by high-tech machines and tubes. Hospitals have sophisticated procedures that mechanize the prolonging of life. So much so, that sometimes, after the initial shock and wide attention, chronic illness becomes sustained by machines, with professional medical staff on rotation in a hospital environment that can get very impersonal. Isn't that lonely, mechanical and dehumanizing?

Jesus had no chronic illness, but he lived among people with chronic spiritual sickness. Quietly he endures loneliness when his disciples all forsook him, even Peter. He suffers the unjust mechanical court proceedings, without a Senior counsel or lawyer to argue his defense. He experiences the dehumanizing treatment from the Jews, the nasty taunts of the Roman soldiers, and is wronged through the utterly unfair trials ever to be conducted in the history of mankind. Why? He knew he had to die. No hospitals. No high-tech medical equipment. A perfectly healthy person, yet he receives the sentence to die, through no fault of his own. Simply to carry his cross all the way, step by step to Golgatha. Why? Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, there will not be any fruits. Yet when it dies, it will bring forth much fruit, and life eternal. Obedience to the Father, means obedience even though it means death.

Jesus knew he has to die, so that God will be glorified.
Jesus must die. That we may live.
Jesus died, promising us eternal life.
The hour has come, that the Son of Man will be glorified. But first, he has to die.

Reflect on his death. Do not show our “fear of death” by fast-forwarding ourselves to Easter Sunday. The resurrection day will surely come. Easter has no meaning without the dying.


No comments:

Latest Posts